Berkeley releases report to address city’s homeless crisis

A graph showing estimated homeless population by year and a list of strategic goals for addressing homelessness
Jenn Zeng/Senior Staff

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Berkeley City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley and her staff responded to a Berkeley City Council referral for a “1000 Person Plan to Address Homelessness” in a 36-page report released on the action calendar of the March 26 City Council meeting.

The report came in response to a referral made by the City Council on April 4, 2017, which tasked the city manager with creating a “1,000 Person Plan.” The report estimates that there are nearly 1,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in Berkeley, adding that about 2,000 people total experience homelessness over the course of one year.

The report details that the original referral directive would need “up-front investments in targeted homelessness prevention, light-touch housing problem-solving, rapid rehousing and permanent subsidies.” The report also suggests another plan that aims to end all homelessness in Berkeley by 2028 and offers more spending than the options proposed in the 1,000 Person Plan.

The report estimates that the 1,000 Person Plan will cost between $16 and $19.5 million up front, with an annual ongoing expense of between $12 and $15 million for permanent subsidies. Annual expenses of the plan to end all homelessness by 2028 are estimated to be between $17 and $21 million in the first year, with a total expense of between $31 and $43 million by 2028.

“The 1,000 Person Plan tells us what it would take to house 1,000 homeless in Berkeley,” Councilmember Sophie Hahn said in an email. “If we don’t know what it would take to house the approximately 1,000 homeless on our streets on any given night, we don’t know the scale and type of resources we might need.”

In the case that the City Council is unable to finance either plan, the report offers several alternatives. The four alternatives recommended include turning Berkeley’s shelter system into a more housing-focused navigation system, reducing chronic homelessness by 50 percent by 2023 through the increased funding of subsidies, enhancing the accuracy of homeless prevention interventions by targeting resources to help those most in need and implementing changes to Berkeley’s land use, zoning and development review requirements to alleviate homelessness.

The report also states that the population experiencing homelessness has increased at an average rate of 10 percent every two years, a trend that has disproportionately affected Black community members. The report added that the average number of times repeat individuals return to homeless services has increased 9 percent yearly, reflecting a trend where the same individuals appear to be going in and out of homelessness.

City spokesperson Matthai Chakko noted that whether someone has disabilities is the greatest determining factor of their ability to not be homeless, a factor he said decreases someone’s chance of exiting the system by 730 percent. He added that short-term solutions are not very effective in transitioning people out of shelter housing.

The report will be presented to the City Council on April 30, Chakko said.

Contact Leon Chen at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @leonwchen.